Veps and Karelians

The Veps live in the southern part of the Republic of Karelia and in the Leningrad and Volodga Oblasts. They mostly live in small villages in remote parts of all these regions. The Veps are recognised as indigenous people in the statue number 255 by the Russian government (24.3.2000). According to the 2002 census, there were 8240 Veps in Russia. Only 37.5% of Veps people considered Veps as their native language. The Veps are spread over quite a large area and the groups living in different administrative areas did not have very much contact with each other.

In 1989, Veps Cultural Society was established and it has published books for schools in Veps language. These books have been used mostly in the Republic of Karelia where Veps lessons are available in four schools. Petrozavodsk radio has broadcasting in Veps and a newspaper is published once a month. The status of own language is increasing, there are young writers writing in Vepsian language. Raisa Lardot  is a Vepsian writer who has published several books which are available in Finnish, Russian and Swedish.

The number of Veps was decreasing, but it has started to increase again. Following a common trend, the young generation of Veps has been moving to towns from villages.

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The Karelians live in the Republic of Karelia, the Oblasts of Tver, Leningrad and Murmansk, and some small groups also live in other parts of the Russian Federation. In the Republic of Karelia, they made up 10% of whole the population in 1989. The Karelians are more urbanised than other indigenous people in the Russian Barents region. More than 60% of Karelians lived in towns in the Republic in 1989. The young generation has been forced to move to towns in search of employment not available in rural areas. The loss of language is also a reality for the Karelians, since only 51.5% of them considered Karelian to be their native language in 1989. In towns, the native language is easier lost than in rural places. The number of Karelians and the number of Karelian speakers both decreased during the Soviet era, mainly because the language was not taught in schools. The Finnish language has the status of an official language after Russian, although the Finns are late newcomers in the Republic of Karelia.

There are several main dialects (North Karelian, South Karelian, Olonets and Ludic) in the Karelian language, which has made it difficult to create a common Karelian literary language. Also the local politicians have not considered the creation of a written language very important. However, the process of creating a new literary language in Latin script is currently undergoing, and there are schools now where children can attend lessons in the Karelian language. The University of Petrozavodsk has established a Chair of Karelian and Veps language. In addition, a Karelian weekly newspaper, "Oma mua", is pub fished, and there are radio and television broadcasts in Karelian. But there is a lack of material in Karelian language. An additional problem is posed by the fact that people speaking the Ludic dialect have difficulties in understanding the written Karelian language, which is based on other dialects. The Karelians have established their own organisation for the revival of their own language and culture called "The Union of Karelian People".

Source: The Economic Geography and Structure of the Russian Territories of the Barents Region, Arctic Centre Reports 31.

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